National XC - A Personal Perspective (08/03/2017)

Life Member Tony Phillips provides his personal annual review on the National XC Championships held recently at Nottingham and its significance to him over his long life and involvement with athletics.

"I went to Wollaton Park, Nottingham to watch the event for the 60th successive time as a runner, club coach/team manager, official, president of ECCA, and spectator.

This occasion was a reminder that Wollaton Park was my playground as a Nottingham schoolboy, and a training course as a member of my first club Notts. A.C. Over the 60 years there have been numerous exciting championships. The first National I attended was at Arrow Park, Birkenhead in 1958. I was then a member of Hull Harriers, and the memory was of Alan Cocking of Bramley winning the junior race by a large margin, a performance so impressive that he was selected for the England senior team.

1959 was the first attended as Tipton Harrier at Peterborough in 1959, but injury prevented me from running. Clear in my memory was the first National title won by Tipton juniors at Parliament Hill, in 1961, consisting of Geoff Wood, Dougie Fownes, John Thorneycroft and David Denton. The most exciting of all was the firs National senior win by Tipton in 1969 at Parliament Hi9ll, with the lowest ever score when the six counters finished in the top 53 led by Jim Wright, 11th, Allan Rushmer, 14th, Alan Richards, 19th, Doug Fownes 33rd, Keith Boyden 45th, and Bill McKim 53rd. Tipton won the title again in 1972 at Sutton Park, an event remembered for the extreme cold and snow covered course when Allan Rushmer collected the bronze medal after a great run.

Keith Rollason had been the first Tioton runner to Win the National junior title at Blackpool in 1970. Tipton were deprived of another win at Norwich in 1971 when the Scottish club Shettleston Harriers won after a last minute signing. !978 saw an epic battle at Leeds between Bernie Ford, a tough, determined runner, beating Tipton's equally tough Ian Stewart, but Tipton won the race.

There was a hattrick of wins in 1980, Leicester, 1981 Parliament Hill and 1982 at Leeds, that signified the dominance of Tipton in Cross country running.

Tipton's juniors won the title at Newark in 1984. The last Tipton winning team performance in the National was at Stowe in 2000, and the final win in the National was when Matt Smith won the great event, creating an exciting run in down the final hill to the finish, for the title, the only Tipton individual winner apart from the great Jack Holden who had won three tiltes , the last in 1946.

The outstanding runners and teams that have represented the club over these years stand out in the memory.

With this background of Tipton domination of the National I went to Wollaton Park for the 2017 event. The impressive setting of the park with the Elizabethan hall dominating the scene and overlooking the course.It was considered a good cross country course with some good running, hills, muddy sections and pools of water.

It was a testing course that needed stamina, as well as fast running capability. There were ten races and 5191 finishers with record numbers in five of the races.

The Tipton senior men were below full strength with as many of their leading not competing as those who ran in the team to finish 33rd out of 131 completed teams. Disappointing but other top clubs were equally lacking, consider Rotherham Harriers 38th, Coventry Godiva 44th and Birchfield 70th.

For Tipton, Joe Smith ran a good hard race in 107th place, Dean Bate ran his usual determined race and up to his league form, 292nd, Philip Wilson still recovering from his injuries put in a full effort, 375th, Gary Whitehouse also a determined run 390th, and Tom Holden 392nd on a tough course, but in line with his season's runs.

Evergreen and loyal club runner Dean Hill completed the scoring six in 622nd place. For the record the club's counting 9 team event were 25th.

The women's senior team were a creditable 13th out of 93 finishing teams. It was difficult to pick out Tipton's young runners as few were to be seen in the record numbers turning out. Why?"

Tony Phillips, Life Member